The Arizona Association of Realtors is moving forward with a plan to build a statewide multiple listing service, approving the acquisition of the state’s largest MLS today as the first step in the process.

With the 70-27 vote to acquire Tempe-based Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service Inc. (ARMLS) for $4.75 million, Arizona Realtors also brought ARMLS CEO Bob Bemis on board to lead the effort to build a statewide MLS.

Bemis called the deal, expected to close by the end of next month, a "big win for every Realtor in Arizona and the start of something very much needed, here and elsewhere."

Arizona currently has 21 Realtor associations and 14 separate MLSs. The state association has been studying the feasibility of a statewide MLS for more than a year, and the board was presented with a preliminary business plan in March.

Proponents said a larger MLS system will provide better economies of scale, and be in a better position to compete with third-party publishers like Zillow and Trulia. Arizona MLS will be self-sustaining even it fails to attract other MLSs, they said, and neither ARMLS or state association members will see a rise in their subscriber fees or dues as a result of the acquisition.

The overwhelming support for the ARMLS acquisition by the state association’s board bodes well for the prospects of a statewide MLS, said Tom Farley, CEO of the Arizona Association of Realtors.

"I think the margin of passage surprised a number of people," Farley said. "My guess is that in the next couple of days my phone is going to be ringing," as MLSs and associations will want to be involved in helping build the new platform that will power Arizona MLS.

FBS’ flexmls system — already in use by ARMLS, TARMLS and the Santa Cruz MLS — will power Arizona MLS. MLSs not currently using flexmls will be invited to participate in designing a framework to include data fields, reports and business rules.

The Arizona Association of Realtors will continue to develop an integrated business platform, "ARBI," that will provide members with a single point of access to data and services including the MLS, public records, electronic forms, digital signatures, transaction management, and broker back-office support.

The appeal of using ARBI to have "single sign-on" capabilities and to bring MLS data into electronic forms was probably another reason for the support for moving forward with a statewide MLS, Farley said.

But ARBI will be "MLS agnostic," he said, and will be provided as a member benefit regardless of whether an association or MLS has joined Arizona MLS. Once the system is up and running in Arizona, ARBI — an acronym for Arizona Realtor Business Interface — may also be licensed to other associations and MLSs outside of the state, Farley said.

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